written by Chris Familton
Mavis Staples rose to fame in the 50s and 60s as a member of the gospel group The Staple Singers before releasing a string of soul and spiritual albums as a solo artist. In 2007 she worked with Ry Cooder and now Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy has been assigned the producer task of doing justice to the mighty voice Staples clearly possesses.
What makes this album so special isn’t just the reappraisal of a wonderful singer (like latter day Johnny Cash and Solomon Burke) but the way new life has been injected into her music, in particular the strong yet subtle vein of country music that threads its way through many of the songs. Tweedy wrote two songs and in the title track he provides the perfect vehicle for Staples to sing a wonderfully reassuring song that is positive without being cloying, soaked as it is with a melancholic tone. It is one of those songs people fall in love with on the first listen.
Elsewhere traditional religious songs like Creep Along Moses are given Staples’ blues and gospel treatment as are songs by Randy Newman (Losing You) and John Fogerty (Wrote A Song For Everyone). Her backing band is with her every step of the way, colouring the songs in the same traditional manner that Dylan has coated his recordings of the last decade.
Of course it is is Staples’ voice that makes this such a rewarding listen. She doesn’t go overboard on the gospel histrionics, instead she balances pathos, romance and anguish with a light touch before showing she isn’t afraid add some rock n roll and funk on Don’t Knock and Last Train. You’re Not Alone is hands down the soul album of 2010.
this review first appeared in Drum Media